When you get a new job in Martinsburg, WV, part of the new hire paperwork typically includes acknowledging that you’re an at-will employee. That means your employer can choose to terminate your employment with the company for any reason. However, federal employment laws prohibit unlawful termination based on age, family status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and several other categories. You may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer for wrongful termination if you feel that he or she violated federal law when dismissing you.
Whistleblower Protection Act
Both state and federal laws protect workers who contact the government with information about illegal activities at their place of employment from demotion, termination, or other forms of retaliation. When employers violate whistleblower regulations, the affected employee may feel like resigning his or her position is the only option due to the hostile work environment. Creating such an environment is illegal.
Other Common Types of Wrongful Termination
If you have a job performance issue, your employer must provide written and in-person guidance on what you must do to improve. It’s also your responsibility to attempt to resolve normal workplace issues before you quit because of them. These expectations change when you’re in a hostile work environment or feel you’re the victim of wrongful termination. Some examples include:
- Termination after returning from maternity leave or announcing that you’re pregnant.
- Termination due to your age, disability, or another non-performance reasons that are part of the protected classes listed above.
- Termination due to reporting of sexual harassment or workplace discrimination.
Additionally, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against your employer for withholding of wages or other benefits. This applies regardless if you still work for the employer or not. Typical examples include:
- Your employer refused to offer mandatory lunch and rest breaks.
- You didn’t receive payment for commission or overtime you earned or accrued vacation hours.
Implied or Written Promises from Your Employer
Your employer may claim you’re an at-will employee even when you receive a verbal or written promise about how long you would work for the company. You may have even signed a contract stating that gross negligence is the only condition under which your employer can fire you. You can find this information on your offer letter, which your company’s human resources department should have if you no longer have a copy yourself.
If you choose to file a lawsuit and it goes to court, the judge and jury will consider the following factors at a minimum:
- Whether you receive a fair warning from your employer prior to termination.
- How long you worked with the company.
- Your history regarding promotions and performance reviews.
- If your employer made a written or implied promise of indefinite employment.
Employee Termination and Public Policy Laws
Wrongful termination of employees who violate whistleblower laws is the most common type of public policy violation among employers in the Martinsburg, WV area. Others include:
- Military service
- Jury duty
- Requesting time off to vote
- Filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits
- Organizing or joining a union
- Refusing to engage in fraudulent or criminal activity
Since this list doesn’t include all possibilities, we recommend that employees who suspect wrongful termination schedule a legal consultation to learn whether their situation qualifies.
Misrepresentation of the Reason for Termination
Employers know that they must operate within the provisions of federal and state law when terminating employment. Unfortunately, some choose to work around this by inventing a false narrative about why the termination took place. This is a breach of duty and good faith. Typical examples of bad faith in action include:
- A documented pattern of sending the employee to unsafe or undesirable locations or significantly changing hours, pay, or duties in hopes that he or she will quit.
- Transferring commissioned employees to non-commission roles to avoid paying commission due.
- Firing an employee for supposed poor performance when the real motivation was to hire a replacement worker who would not command as high of a salary.
- Lying to employees about the likelihood of a promotion or raise.
The Riddell Law Group is Here for You – Contact Us For a Free Consultation
Our team of experienced wrongful termination lawyers are available now to help you pursue financial compensation from your employer as well as possible payment for emotional distress, attorney fees, and lost benefits. We invite you to contact our Martinsburg, WV law office to request a free initial consultation today.